A top chef has admitted to waking in the night to tell his wife to turn the oven off as he prepared for one of the biggest competitions of his life.
Daniel Richardson has worked at Hartwell House for nearly 20 years and recently fed international financiers when Chancellor George Osborne hosted the G7 conference there.
But little compares to the stress of getting to the semi-finals of the Master of Culinary Arts, one of the most prestigious contests in a chef’s career, which took place yesterday (Tuesday).
Mr Richardson spent more than two months preparing his menu which centred around an exquisite dish of Aylesbury Duck.
“This competition only happens once every four years,” he said.
“I’ve never been in the right place with home and work before to enable me to do it. But I took a week’s holiday this year to practice the dishes. My wife Maria and our children, my staff and the hotel have given me a lot of support.”
In addition to perfecting his menu in the hotel kitchens, trying it out on staff and adding it to the dinner menu at Hartwell House, Mr Richardson was aided by his 15-year-old daughter Emily and 13-year-old son Samuel as they worked with him preparing the vegetables, fetching things and washing up.
Mr Richardson spent Tuesday at the University of West London in Ealing, working for six and a half hours in a small kitchen with the assistance of a student he had met just half an hour earlier, to prepare, cook and serve three courses to a panel of discerning judges.
The meal included three courses to serve eight people from a silver platter, starting with sole, the main course of Aylesbury Duck and finishing with a Tarte au Citron.
The competition is open only to chefs with at least 10 years full-time experience who have trained others and other semi finalists included the chefs from the House of Commons and the Ritz.
Mr Richardson won’t know the results from the semi-finals for a couple of weeks as it takes time for the judges to collate and prepare their reports.
But if he gets through to the finals in September he will have another complete menu to prepare.
The day before the semi-final Mr Richardson admitted: “I’ve got a stress headache. I am confident in what I’m cooking, and I couldn’t be better prepared but it’s making sure I don’t forget to take anything with me.
“My wife is my biggest fan and biggest support. I’ve been talking in my sleep while preparing for this and kept telling her to turn the oven off.”